how many calories does a push-up burn? Not Many, But That’s OK

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How many calories does a push-up burn? There aren’t many exercises simpler than push-ups. But are they really worth it? Do push-ups burn fat or add muscle? I’m going to answer all of these questions and more to satisfy your curiosity and help you decide if push-ups are a good use of your workout time.

Although it depends on height and weight, gender, age and the intensity of the workout, push-ups can burn about seven calories per minute on the lower end and 10 per minute or more on the high end. Let’s get into the details.

How Many Calories Can You Burn Doing Push-ups?

You can make the calculation as complicated as you want to. But the more complicated you make it, the less accurate your answer will be.

In general, each push-up burns between one-third and one-half of a calorie. On average, that’s between seven and 10 calories per minute or 420 to 600 per hour. The harder you go, the more calories you’ll burn.

Lighter people encounter less resistance and burn calories at a lower rate. Heavier people have to work harder to lift their body off the ground, so they burn more calories.

Variations serve to increase or decrease the efficiency of your efforts. Diamond-style push-ups are less efficient, as far as energy expenditure versus movement goes, so you have to burn more calories to lift yourself compared to standard pushups. Other variations serve to work different muscles for isolation workouts.

There are a few other less important factors, like age, gender and height. These are small minor variables, and they make little difference. All other things being the same, men burn more calories than women. Younger people have a more efficient metabolism, so they burn more than older folks. Height affects leverage, and therefore the amount of energy needed to lift body weight.

The Formula

I know. You want an equation or a formula to calculate how many calories push-ups burn. But lacking scientific equipment and a bunch of wires and sensors, all I can really offer you is an approximation.

Let’s keep it simple. On the upper end, we have heavier men who burn 10 calories per minute when repping at an average pace. Lighter women encounter less resistance and have less testosterone, so they burn about seven calories per minute while working out at an average pace.

Men: Pick a number between eight and 10. Go for a higher number if you’re heavier or can do pushups faster. Go lower if you’re a lightweight or are used to slower workouts. For example, a 200-pound man who’s in great physical shape would probably burn 10 calories per minute. A 140-pound guy who’s never worked out before probably burns around eight calories per minute, or even less.

Women: If you’re light or workout more slowly, your calories burned per minute is seven to eight. If you are heavy or workout harder, your number is nine.

Multiply your calories per minute by the number of minutes you do push-ups per workout. Do not include rest between sets.

Do Push-ups Burn Fat?

Sort of.

Push-ups can help you burn fat in a mostly indirect manner.

Let me explain. In order to burn fat, you have to workout your entire body and keep your heart rate elevated. Look to almost any HIIT workout for an example. Push-ups don’t work your entire body, and they really don’t do much to elevate your heart rate.

But push-ups build strength, especially in the core, chest and arms. Having more strength helps you to burn more calories and fat when you do aerobics and interval training.

Push-ups give your metabolism a boost, too. That makes all other workouts more efficient when it comes to torching calories and melting fat.

So what’s the bottom line? Push-ups can be a good addition to your fat-loss workout regimen if you also want to add core, chest and arm strength. Go ahead and do it. And check out the section about push-up variables below to see how to expand push-up’s benefits beyond your chest and arms.

Can You Lose Weight With Push-ups?

This is another area where push-ups have indirect benefits. Read the section about push-ups and fat loss. You won’t lose much weight by doing push-ups, but your cardio and aerobic exercises will be much more effective at dropping fat and weight.

How To Make A Push-up Workout Plan

elevated push-up
Push-ups can be done anywhere

You likely started out asking “How many calories does a push-up burn?” But now you’ve talked yourself into adding them to your workout routine. Check out this post to see how to make a push-up workout plan.

It’s pretty easy to incorporate push-ups into any workout regimen. You’ve seen how they can and will enhance your cardio. Working push-ups into your fitness plan makes sense.

The best thing to do is make them part of your daily routine. If you don’t workout daily, you should do them every time you do workout.

First, you should set a pace for yourself. How many push-ups per minute is ideal for you? Let’s find out. All you need is a timer, like the one you have on your phone.

Get into the standard push-up position, which is detailed in the section below. Immediately before you begin, reach over and hit the start button on your timer.

Don’t wear yourself out. You want a good steady pace. Count the number of reps you do as you go.

Stop when you reach the point of exhaustion, and immediately stop your timer. Now do some simple division to find the average number of reps you did per minute. That’s your pace. When you add push-ups to your workout regimen, you may want to keep that pace or try to progress. It’s up to you and depends on your goals.

How many push-ups did you do before you hit the wall? Multiply that number by three, and that’s the number of reps you should do every workout to build upper-body strength. Multiply by four if you want quicker and better results.

But what if you’re not interested in push-ups for strength? You’re likely doing other kinds of strength training, anyway. So maybe you just want the metabolism-boosting benefits of push-ups to lose weight. In that case, it depends on how fast you want results.

If you want quicker results, follow the above recommendations for strength training. If you just want to use push-ups as a metabolism-enhancing warmup, divide the maximum number of pushups you can do by three, and start your workouts with three sets of that number, with a 30-second rest between sets.

Variations Of Pushups

Like any other exercise, there are numerous variations on the standard push-up. Let’s look at some of the most popular and useful variations to see what their benefits are. Check out this video to see 30 variations.

Standard Push-up

Start with your chest and stomach on the floor. Your palms should be flat on the floor at about shoulder-width apart, and your elbows should be at about a 45-degree angle to your body. Your toes are your fulcrum.

Engage your core and exhale as you use your arms to push yourself up into a plank. Pause for one second, and inhale as you slowly lower your body back to the floor.

Plank Push-ups

Plank push-ups work your triceps more. It’s just like a standard push-up, but you start with your forearms on the floor, instead of your palms. Push your body up until your arms are at full extension, at which point you will be supporting your body with your palms. Lower yourself back down onto our forearms. It’s a lot tougher than you think. Try it.

Close and Wide Grip Push-ups

The only difference in these ones is the width of your palms.

To do close-grip push-ups, start with your palms a couple inches narrower than your shoulders and keep your elbows tucked in close to your body. This form works your chest better than standard push-ups.

Wide-grip push-ups are great for working your upper arms, back and shoulders. Keep your hands about four inches wider than your shoulders for wide push-ups.

One Leg Push-ups

This is a standard push-up, but you are only using one foot as a fulcrum. Keep your other foot off the floor. Switch it up each set or even each rep. This type of push-up engages your core better than the standard variety.

One Arm Push-ups

The main benefit here is better core and hip isolation. Do these push-ups with your feet wide apart and one hand help tight against the small of your back.

Clap Push-up

If you’ve never done clap push-ups, you’ve probably at least seen them done. You don’t push your body upward, you explode upward. Push so hard that your momentum carries you up. Quickly clap your hands together when you reach the upper point of your momentum. Land on your palms and lower yourself back to the starting point. The more explosive you are, the more times you will be able to clap before you have to catch yourself.

T Push-ups

Now, here’s a challenge. This push-up works your entire upper body. Your chest, back, shoulders, abs, arms and obliques all get in on the action.

Think of a standard push-up, but as you raise yourself you twist your body to one side and reach your arm up to the ceiling. Your top position is like a capital “T” laying on its side. For an even more intense T push-up, check out how to do it with a dumbbell here.

Diamond Push-ups

Diamonds work your triceps and chest harder.

Instead of your palms at your shoulder’s width apart, put your hands together under your chest so your index fingers and thumbs are touching at their tips. This is actually more of a triangle or pyramid than a diamond. Lower yourself to the floor so your chest is touching the backs of your hands, then raise to full arm extension to do a rep.

So Finally – How Many Calories Does A Push-up Burn?

standard push-up

So, you’ve learned that push-ups burn anywhere from seven to 10 or more calories per minute, depending on the intensity of your workout as well as your gender, age, height and weight.

More importantly, I hope you’ve learned more about the benefits of push-ups and how to make a push-up workout plan.

Other than building upper arms strength, push-ups can really help you melt fat and lose weight by revving your metabolism to get a supercharged aerobic or cardio workout. But, to get the most burn, push-ups should really be a part of your overall plan.

Do you have any questions or brags about your own push-up workout? If so, comment below.

Jeff Carpenter

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